March 1, 2002
Having passed in the House, the legislation moved on to the Senate, where it was expected to pass soon after Congress reconvened in January. Under this legislation, the Congress would still have the authority to approve or disapprove any treaty, but would not negotiations with other countries impossible.
A number of countries competing with the United States in the production of food preparation and serving equipment have already negotiated bilateral treaties, which result in lower tariffs for their products than for those from U.S. The situation makes it more difficult for NAFEM members to compete in growing export markets. This kind of tariff discrimination against U.S. products would become worse if the President and the U.S. trade negotiations lack the authority to negotiate the treaties, which the Trade Promotion Act will provide.
NAFEM members from the districts of “swing,” or undecided Congressmen, were active urging their representatives to support the Trade Promotion Act. The NAFEM Washington office, working with the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and US Trade, a NAM-affiliated organization, participated in a number of meetings with Congressmen who were wavering in support of who had not studied the issues.
John Nackley, CFSP, InterMetro Industries Corp., Wilkes-Barre, Pa. and NAFEM immediate past president, wrote to all members of Congress to point out that almost 20 percent of the industry’s products are now exported, meaning that 20 percent of employment is directly dependent on exports. These export markets represent growth opportunities for most NAFEM members. The letter campaign was successful: The majority of those Congressmen or Congresswomen with whom NAFEM or its members made direct contact ended up supporting the bill.
Approval was uncertain until the last minute. Unions were strongly opposed, fearing job losses in the U.S. and ignoring the jobs that exports create.
NAFEM will again write members of the Senate when the bill comes before that body, which will probably take place during the first quarter of 2002. However, the Senate is traditionally more trade-oriented than the House of Representatives, so this vote approval should be far less difficult to obtain. NAFEM will keep you updated on the outcome of the vote.